Jeff Renwick, CEO & Director, Canntab Therapeutics Ltd.
Jeff Renwick, serves as the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Canntab Therapeutics Limited, a cannabis oral dosage formulation company, researches and develops advanced pharmaceutical grade formulations of cannabinoids in Canada.
With extensive experience in drug formulation and business development, Jeff also served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Orbus Pharma Inc. He is a pharmaceutical executive with over 15 years of international industry experience covering manufacturing, purchasing, distribution, marketing and product development, as well as mergers and acquisitions in North America, Europe, Caribbean and South America.
[00:00:01] You're listening to Thinking Outside the Bud where we speak with entrepreneurs investors thought leaders researchers advocates and policymakers who are finding new and exciting ways for cannabis to positively impact business society and culture. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.
[00:00:30] Welcome everyone.
[00:00:31] This is Thinking Outside the Bud. Im Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host and our guest today is Jeff Renwick who is CEO of Canntab Therapeutics out of Toronto Canada. And we're gonna learn a little bit more about his background and about the company. Jeff welcome to the program.
[00:00:44] Yeah. Thanks for having me numbers.
[00:00:46] Yeah. So I always like to start these conversations with backgrounds. Curious what your professional background was or is and then how you got into the cannabis space. Give us a sense right.
[00:00:56] I'll give you a quick quick rundown on that. Basically I'm from Saskatchewan I'm Canadian. I ended up getting into the pharmaceutical business where you know my first career job if you will as a result of me being a hockey player in Germany instead of coming back to Canada in the summertime I actually got a job working with a startup like call it a pharmaceutical Trading Company who at the time like really I had the huge amount of growth and I being very young I was all vested in and I became very good friends with the family that actually run the business. And as they grew their trading business they got into trading and manufacturing and distribution of pharmaceuticals around the world. And I sort of grew up with the company a little bit there until they sold out to a larger company and then I came back to Canada in 1999 and brought like some of my pharmacy stuff back with me and fulfilled a sort of a long standing commitment I had to myself to move back to Canada. And when I did I brought all of the suppliers that I gained in Europe here and started selling raw materials to some of the Canadian Manufacturers smarts. I got into the business.
[00:02:08] Yeah yeah. How long and how long did you play hockey.
[00:02:11] What was the very short stint time you actually played a little bit in Germany and a little bit in Norway. I was with my uncle actually who lived there and you know got tired of sort of you know not having any money and that's when I got into the business.
[00:02:28] Well you know I think like so many professionals you get out there there's this kind of combination of fortunate circumstances need hunger that get us out.
[00:02:39] He's different. Joe So that was kind of that attract to the pharmaceutical world. So tell us about the cannabis stuff how did how did cannabis end up you know.
[00:02:47] How did you get introduced to it or or what was the motivation to look specifically in the cannabis market.
[00:02:52] Actually what happened was about four years ago my partner Richard Goldstein who's also the co-founder of can tab. We were kind of like waiting for an FDA approval on this drug that we developed for another generic company in the US and we had the plant and we had you know all the equipment and staff and everything and we decided that you know we didn't want to do another project because we would've had to refinance the company.
[00:03:16] So we took on a really like an interesting project from this like a neutral cuticle company that was using krill oil and oil from shrimp and omega oils and I get three sixes and nines and they were producing like these gel caps and this oil. And the idea was you know and this came out about through our patent attorney actually that we'd been working with. They wanted to try and improve the bio availability of krill oil. So we decided you know like we weren't doing anything and there really wasn't any other projects that we had in mind so we kind of shifted over into the neutral musical space and started working with this krill oil and oil like I'm derived from shells of the shrimp coming out of the food processing industry. So they were sort of solving a problem by not using krill and then by also trying to you know have a person better uptake the krill oil and being able to you know give less krill oil or shrimp oil than previous and by putting it in a hard pill form and making it extended release. We thought that maybe we could have an improvement to like really a multi-billion dollar industry of mega oils are everywhere. Yeah. So we started in the company that we contracted from actually during the process ended up getting purchased by another company and left our pro tip kind of on hold.
[00:04:33] And while the project was on hold I mean this is like a real serendipitous story really. One of the fellows that works with this sister had cancer and he was I believe he was what they call the let the legal caregiver to his sister because his having him take the dried flowers and make oil for her and doing it like in his kitchen or at home or whatever. And he asked me if you know when it was all like legally at a card she had a card everything was being purchased like from a legal source if he could actually come in and do this little rendering using some of the plant equipment on the weekend when nobody was around. So he did so and I was watching him and I was thinking to myself wait a minute looky here. What was good for a writer take home like concentrates. And I it's like looking at the shrimp stuff and looking at this thing wait a minute we can do something in terms of you know taking this the next level and putting it into a real dosage form and that's sort of how I got into the business. I mean it wasn't by intent. We didn't jump in or it was like you know real really by serendipity actually you know.
[00:05:39] Yeah I have this vision of I don't remember the commercials from recent Peanut Butter Cups where there's the chocolate maker and the peanut butter guy and they have an accident and they get mush together like wait a minute I think we discovered it.
[00:05:51] Yeah that's actually true and then you know after several attempts and trials we actually emerged one night about three o'clock in the morning with a tablet holding an eye in the air you know I love it.
[00:06:02] Let's go and talk to me about this by availability stuff because I'm not sure this is it comes up in various conversations but I'm not sure people really appreciate why this is so important.
[00:06:11] But generally talk about bio availability and then why this becomes important or interesting from the cannabis base.
[00:06:17] Yeah right. You're going to actually hear a lot more now now that especially in Canada that we've had legalization. You know scientists and chemists and researchers are able to do some meaningful research legally on cannabis.
[00:06:31] So one of the major problems with cannabis especially edible can talking about vaporized or smoked Is that your your liver actually does its job and filters out you know a lot of the things that it deems to be you know whatever harmful to your body or it metabolizes in your liver. And all of the oils and whatnot are basically metabolized you know through your liver your buccal cavity. So one of the major goals of our company was to take that low bio availability of the oils and try and make that into something a little bit more bio available and more consistent in terms of dosage. So with our tablet what we do is we actually bypass the hepatic system in the liver and we drop it into the your lower extremities if you will where the tablet can slowly erode over time and your body can uptake it a little bit better so you may not need as much as like eating say a gummy bear. And you know some of the other issues that are there is that oils are you know they have fat in it and waxes and many different things which have a lot of medical benefit but the stability and the shelf life on them is very poor. And they also vert into other Kwinana boys as you know the shelf life goes. So we believe that in the tablet form the Canadian boys are stabilized and they're not going to convert and you'll have less degradation in the stability of the product they'll be much better on top of the bio availability.
[00:07:54] Yeah it's interesting. I'm not sure people really appreciate that that you know just from a kind of physiology point of view that the big difference or how you ingest the product ends up having a huge impact on its effect on you. You know and you know do you know inhaling or vaping you know through the lung system has a certain mechanism or delivers it in a certain way but ingesting it. Yeah. It ends up being digested and ends up going through digestive system and your liver and at both the effectiveness or the impact will vary also. But the thing that I learned to appreciate is you end up having more variability in people's digestive systems and you know their bodies will process that differently. So you can actually have the same dose the same ingestion but actually have different results based on people's chemistries and how their body works. So this this idea of having the test I had and I actually hadn't appreciated the whole shelf life aspect which is really interesting where the oils that they do do great I mean things are moving fast enough that things are kind of flying off the shelves right now in terms of you know as we move into really developing you know supply chains product chains you know inventories and people having to kind of manage inventories or periods of time or production processes. Yeah this is going to become more and more of an issue for folks it seems.
[00:09:12] No it is and then we've also been you know doing a lot of research in terms of the turbines that are used alongside cannabis and one of the major issues that are with edible cannabis is when you do a process in order to convert the cannabis into a more bio available form you have to heat it.
[00:09:29] And when you heat it you often reduce the or you burn off the tour planes in there and we've heard a lot of talk about planes through you know many different sources and we actually truly believe that turbines are part of what they call the entourage effect in cannabis. So with our tablet process we're able to still discard box flies that the cannabis oil and you know utilize the cannabinoids and all that we're able to add back in the Tour planes that have been previously extracted from the oil prior to decoder box lacing is it to be described oxidized. So like we're actually stepping up our clinical research into the Canterbury's beyond THC and THC and THC and CBD and CBD into include other two pints such as my Racine and now and not.
[00:10:15] So it's you know it's really getting interesting now to be able to do those things and go beyond the you know bra oil or the resin type of stuff mixed in with triglyceride in order to make it into a dosage form I say I don't know if you're down at the BIS MJ has gone down in Vegas but it was there was a lot of exhibitors talking about the turbines and you know some great great displays and stuff about showing the different. But you know both kind of aesthetic qualities you know that that the taste and the smell and how it affects the kind of palate aspect of you know the of the products. But but then also this entourage the fact that some of these actually have well will adjust or enhance change the characteristics of the sort of the the effect on you in terms of the pharmaceutical portion portion of it. But interesting.
[00:11:06] And so so talk to us a little bit more about the actual tap technology. Like what. What are you what is the actual technology that you've been developing that allows you to put it into this tap format and why is it kind of interesting or unique for you.
[00:11:20] So it's a combination of a number of things like you know starting off at the at the oil stage really we're able to make what we call a nano emulsion or that basically it can emulsified the cannabis oil into a blend of experience that allow that to stay separated and not reform back again like typical oil does like if you take some of the oil that's available in the marketplace now in other capsule former and in a liquid tincture or you know or the oil mixed together with it with all of oil or they use base or they have a coconut it's very popular and all that those oils if you put it you know take that and put it in a glass of water you'll see that you know stir it give it a good stir and it'll all end up back in a dollop together at the top of the water with our technology we can actually you know put it into that granular nation that we have and then put it in the water and stir it and it'll stay separated so you know that's it is like what egg does and Manet's kind of that's upside up I guess.
[00:12:19] Yeah. Probably all different kinds of things you can compare to that. I mean it's pharmaceutical technology it's been around for a while. Yeah. And you know we converted it into a sort of a cannabis scenario and that was really the beginning and then once we had those granules and we're able to you know have a product that has like a real content uniformity where there isn't more oil on one side of the mix than the other side then we're able to really take that and put it in to like what we call a matrix technology for tablets where we could do a number of things we could make an instant release we could make an extended release we could make it like a flash mill type of tablet where you put in your mouth and melt so you and your buccal cavity. So we tried to cover off you know a number of different problems like with oral dosages like some people's liver might not be good. Other people might want a long term solution some people might want an instant solution. So with our product range using that technology we're able to develop a whole line of oral solid oral dosages.
[00:13:18] And so now from the business model point of view are you are you licensing the technology are you actually producing on behalf of folks are you developing your own brands. What's your. Are you approaching the market right.
[00:13:30] So what we're doing is we're trying to line herself up together with. Well first of all we're not a licensed producer in terms of growing. We have an application in with Health Canada to be a non growing LICENSE producer will allow us to get you know beat either dried flowers or oil from a licensed producer. What we're trying to align ourselves together with the license for use it also has distribution.
[00:13:54] So we've done one deal for one of our product lines with a company called emblem. And you know they're a Canadian LP with a good amount of customers and knowing we know them. Yeah right. So then then we've also brand like you know sort of discussions with other companies for the rest of our product line and we've set up an agreement with FSD farmer or FDA farmer out in Coburg to build a 10000 square foot facility within side of their licensed facility in order to manufacture and distribute worldwide from there.
[00:14:26] Oh interesting. So tell us about how you're approaching that mark how you cat Canada is kind of the poster child right now in terms of you know developing national markets but there's a lot going on internationally. How is the international I guess hot. Give me a sense of your priorities in terms of the Canadian market the international market. Are there parts of the international market that are most interesting for you.
[00:14:48] Yeah definitely I mean that we have but like over the last four or five months we have been inundated with leads from Thailand from all these countries that are now coming into the legal scenario. But we've already actually stepped out and we've actually written a deal up with the Mexican company that is distribute our tablets once we get the approval in Canada. The key thing is getting the approval by Health Canada because once we have that approval then we're legally allowed to export the tablets anywhere that is legal. For example we have an arrangement with Australia already where we're going to manufacture the tablets here in Canada and they're going to distribute them in Australia but they can actually start distributing or bring anything in until Health Canada allows it as a dosage form here in Canada. So right now the main focus of the company is to get the product in to Health Canada get approved by Health Canada and then once we have that approval then we can apply for export permits and whatnot to several jurisdictions and one of them is Australia. Whether it is in Mexico I mean Germany is obviously an attractive market for many companies the list goes on. I mean you know the key thing is is getting the Health Canada approval because they know they won't allow the export of a product.
[00:16:00] Interesting. Yeah I guess I hadn't I hadn't appreciated that. But in order to successfully. And this is because your your product actually has THC in it so in order to be able to legally export it you have to be approved by the Canadian government first. Even if these other places have legalized use and sale of product in order to be a producer internationally. So once you get that then you'll be put off the market. I guess how however you found it in terms of developing business on an international level like what. What's your experience been like any any learnings that that you'd be willing to share with other folks that are looking to market products on an international basis.
[00:16:39] I think really I mean a lot of the focus of some of the foreign governments especially the German government and you know also the the the Australian Government who you know really I have some personal experience with is that they're you know they want cannabis in there but they also want a certain amount of quality control involved right. And for them the government when they say quality control it's it's a health product. They look to their drug division or you know in this case health Canada and Germany it's you know that the German and then in Australia they have the EMEA and all that so they need to sort of linked together between those two things of being cannabis and also having some form of testing and some form of consistency in something that they can actually you know limit their liability on. Right. Yeah.
[00:17:28] They need. They need to know we just kind of health and safety of of their population they're not going to be putting something on the market that's going to do harm. Not exactly be blatantly not effective.
[00:17:37] Yeah right. So they're really looking over it at the pharmacy grade type regulations and saying OK if they can incorporate some of that stuff into the Cannabis Act then they'll have you know something that they're willing to endorse right and you'll see some of the companies that have been Canadian companies anyway that are exporting to Germany even the dried flowers. I mean these are companies that qualified with good manufacturing practices and you know have a lot of you know in any kind of certification available that they can really dig into and feel that they're importing a product that's not going to cause any harm anybody.
[00:18:06] And do you think that's that's the kind of the way this industry is going to go is end up adopting either the pharmaceutical policies procedures kind of regulation process or some similar type of level type of process or do you think that the some countries are going to bifurcating some you know treat them somewhat separately.
[00:18:27] I think they're going to really lean towards you know a more higher regulated pharma style. You know regulations and procedures and it's not going to be like a agricultural product that can be shipped based on you know one simple test or something like that. Going to have a regime and Germany is already came out and and said that they want a real strict regime on their their internal growing policies and that's why there haven't got around that yet. And they're actually importing products from everywhere else.
[00:18:57] Yeah. Now exactly that they've decided that their own they have to go outside to find a level that they really desire internally. So talk to me a little bit about how kind of I guess that the challenges and learnings that you've had in terms of building up this business in Canada. I mean you know here in the US you know we've got this crazy system of federal federally illegal and state by state kind of regulation. What. What have you sort of learned I guess transferring from the pharmaceutical space into the space. What are some other kind of takeaways you've had from a business point of view.
[00:19:29] Well I don't think I've ever been in a business for everybody's so nice. I mean it's like like everybody's nice. The regulators are nice. Everybody's very positive. There's a lot of growth. You know there's a lot of interest you know. So I'd like you know lucky to be in an in a sort of a greenfield the business is growing where everybody is enthusiastic and you know there's competition but it's not you know cutthroat competition. Everybody has a build up to do. Everybody has a business to build. You know the financiers you're interested consumers are interested so it's pretty exciting times. I mean I can't really compare anything I've ever done to being in a space like this. I mean I've been in the pharma business where I'm on the R and D side and I never even know what's going on on the sales side where you know in this business you really you're seeing something evolve from really nothing into something that's going to be huge you know.
[00:20:19] Yeah. Do you say that thinking that it might change or do you think that this is just the nature of this industry or is it because where the industry is. Things will become more competitive more cutthroat over time.
[00:20:30] Yeah. I'm guessing you know the it's going to become. I would say a game of big players eventually. I mean this is going to compare to the maybe the alcohol or cigarette type industry with you know maybe a little bit more artisan type flair to it. But yeah you're going to definitely see money flowing in and that money is going to be utilized and they're going to capture market share that the other guys are gonna want it back and you'll see some interesting times I'm sure and especially in the concentrates more than say the smoking aspect of it.
[00:21:02] Yeah yeah I certainly kind of product innovation product development and all these you know move it moving away from just of flower even kind of the extracts but you know whether it's I think its whole kind of wellness area know incorporating in all sorts of products around nutrition and stuff like that is really fascinating as a lot of I think opportunities for innovation and new product development no space so I would be surprised to see that actually that's really it's really our belief that the whole CBD market probably exactly the industry is going to surpass pretty much anything we've seen up to now. Yeah. And it seems I mean you're I mean this that the technology that you've developed to work for any any one of those you know delivering any one of those products. If I understand you right.
[00:21:49] Yeah. Honey it's not actually the company is you know we're about ready to finalize and we've already done it. But you know we've secured a supply of organic hemp from a Canadian hemp farmer for the family the 2018 crop that just came off but you know we're also taking the off coming crops of the next the next year and probably beyond. So we truly believe the health and wellness. I mean you're going to have a lot of people that are going to be taking you know CBD supplements and there's gonna be CBD and you know various skin creams and whatnot Yeah. So you know it's our belief that you know this once a day type thing and you know the whole once a day in a tablet form stuff really we can equate that into a real revenue stream that there's gonna be reoccurring every month almost like a telecom customer a cable customer if you will you know.
[00:22:34] Yeah recurring revenue stream that's the valuation Mecca here if we can get to that point.
[00:22:38] Yeah it's a tell me a little bit more about the business in terms of just challenges of growing a business in this industry right now.
[00:22:44] Things like talent things like capital water.
[00:22:48] However some of that part of growing the business over they've been doing what any challenges or insights you've seen there.
[00:22:54] Well you know luckily for Cantor. I mean all the staff that we have I've been working together with these guys for the last 15 years in different projects and different pharmaceutical aspects so I didn't really have to go out and source our talent but from what I understand you know there's a huge lack of testing people and analytical people and you know there's a lot of people that that are required to take this business is the next level. So I you know I think that that's going to be a little bit of an issue you're going to lose a lot of pharma people to the cannabis space but you know that's fine. That's the evolution and cannabis is going to take market share away from some of the pharma stuff. In terms of capital I mean they're obviously capital like poured into the cannabis space that kind of slowed down a little bit last year but I believe access to capital is not going to be as easy easy as it was a year ago but for viable projects and for companies that are structured properly I think there's no problem at all to raise enough capital to get their business to the next level.
[00:23:48] Yeah sure. And obviously in the U.S. here we're a little were handcuffed out of this regulation stuff on the federal issues but yeah it does.
[00:23:58] It's a huge influx of American companies coming up to Canada and listing on the Canadian stock exchange. The CSC in order to get funding and going down and running their business in the States and being very very very successful I mean I've talked to quite a few people now and in my eyes really opened up to what retail distribution like in a in a scenario like Colorado can mean to a lot of companies. I mean I spoke with one fellow all he did was make gummy bears and he was you know turning over a million dollars a week out of his little small shop.
[00:24:28] Yeah not an uncommon story. Yeah I mean we'll see like it's maturing and people are starting to competition is starting to kind of come in and you know the markets are maturing as well. But yeah you know huge opportunity and I like it but I think you know to your story originally I think the best examples are the most successful examples I've seen are people that take what they've done very well in other industries and just pivot and apply it to the cannabis space. So rather than going in and starting a dispensary or setting up to grow as you know you take your marketing or you take your pharmaceutical or you take your package and whatever those things are that you're you know really well and just apply to the cannabis base those end up being really successful businesses.
[00:25:09] Yeah no I agree with you.
[00:25:11] So for people that are out there you know in different industries thinking about getting into the kind of a space any particular areas if you were going to start a new business or you know start a new venture in the cannabis space that you think it's particularly you know problems that need to be solved areas that need solutions that need innovation and talent. Anything that you've seen in the space that is ripe for new ventures.
[00:25:33] I mean I could go through a list I guess. I mean I I've top two or three quite a while. Well the top one I seen was the packaging packaging people.
[00:25:42] I mean I it was a lack of packaging that was approved by the government or a lack of companies that understood the regulations that made available packaging materials that were acceptable. So know I actually know one fellow that kind of got into it and he's been very successful and you know he started this packaging business. I have another fellow that is specializing in trying to get into the bonded shipping of finished products or raw materials or whatever but he's started a separate business as being a licensed courier and found himself a real niche you know.
[00:26:16] Yeah yeah. At these niches are phenomenal in this growing industry it's just there's a thousand of them. I mean I think you know people people kind of keep coming into the space and saying oh well you know everyone. Everyone's kind of you know capture at the available business opportunities already on there just scaling up like you now there's still there's still doubts out there to be made.
[00:26:33] Yeah. And it's the guys going. I mean I met one fellow that had a system of growing containers for a licensed producer that work electronically connected and it would only water the plants that needed it when the moisture content to its level. But you just use it for cannabis that business came out of with Israeli agriculture company that was actually putting these probes in there in the ground and their irrigated land right and the guy was very smart and just transferred the already successful technology into the cannabis base and I think he's really done well. Yeah. So I mean you have to have an open mind. I mean you have to think about it but there's a lot of a lot of things going on now and being created from New York and people converting from one business to another that really like you said before they're bringing their specialized skills into the cannabis space.
[00:27:17] Yeah. Good. We're gonna hit time here this has been fascinating Jeff. People will find out more about you about can't tap what's the best way to get that information.
[00:27:26] Well we have a website its canntab.ca . anybody can email me anytime they want with questions in my emails firstname.lastname@example.org and you know basic Googling. I mean we would have a little bit of ink on the internet now so anywhere you want to find out are symbols pill on the Canadian stock exchange ITIL or I will I'll make sure all of those that information in those links are in the show notes so people can click through and get them.
[00:27:51] Jeff this has been a pleasure great conversation. I've learned a lot. I really appreciate the time.
[00:27:56] Thanks a lot Bruce. I look forward to talking to you again.
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